Tag Archives: South Africa



Successful short story writing is a mixture of ability and technique. The “Brief Encounter – Short Story Course” will teach you how to develop your skills and improve your chances of becoming a published writer.

The course will cover: Planning, writing compelling openings,  constructing key moments, satisfactory endings, allowing characters to reveal your plot,  creating 3-D characters, effective dialogue, establishing viewpoint, creating credible settings, the importance of drama and conflict – all the building blocks that develop good writing.

Date: Saturday, 1 December 2012

Time: 09h00-15h00

Place: Bedfordview/Edenvale, Gauteng, South Africa

Cost: R1200 includes manual, tea and light lunch.

Contact Isabella at isabellaza@hotmail.co.uk to book your place.



“Ah memories are made of this,” my grandfather used to say, usually after a family dinner on Hogmanay sitting under stars that he couldn’t see, in a country that he wasn’t born in.

“What exactly are memories made of?”

I decided to engage the scientific brain muscles. In order to deconstruct a memory I would have to establish a premise and settle upon a memory that is universally applicable. The hypothesis was scientific: Does place influence the event that makes an experience memorable or does the event influence the place that makes an experience unforgettable? The subject matter was purely sentimental and universally valid: A first kiss. In this experiment, mine.


Michael rode his Chopper bike with bare feet, a naked chest and a white smile. His long blonde hair blew in the wind.  He smelled of chlorine and he wore a faded red Speedo; he should have lived at the sea.  He kissed me over the handlebars of his bike, he closed his eyes and made it special. His skin was beach-sand warm and his mouth tasted of oranges.


To establish if the memory of my first kiss is memorable because of where it happened – on a sand road in front of a municipal swimming pool in Germiston, or, if the area is memorable because it was where I experienced my first kiss.


A car, a smile, and the indelible map of childhood inked into my memory.


The Electricity Supply Commission’s thirty-year old threat to churn up the wide island in front of our house and plant its monstrous power pylons next to our pre-cast wall has come to naught, but it is no compensation for the East Rand baroque palette that has been rendered to the down-pipes and gutters of my childhood home.

The shrubs on neighbours pavements have been uprooted along with the hiding places from which I observed Michael doing wheelies down our sand road before he skidded off right into his own tarred road.

The smooth pole around which I liquorice-twisted myself in an attempt to appear sexy and desirable has rusted bubbles underneath the municipal green paint. On the top of the pole the three street names are still displayed. Langdale leads westward to my house, or eastwards toward the railway line and an uninspiring view of the steel factory. Swannage dips closer down to the railway line and toward Michael’s house. Cheam Crescent snakes up to the swimming pool where we spent summer holding hands on thirsty orange beach towels nicked from the posh hotels, or sucking Jelly Belly ice-creams on fibreless towels with rows of faded palms.

The corner house has the same unpainted gates and dire warning to trespassers – an identical breed of pre-cast tooth-and-gum guard dogs straining against their own over-bred chests and forelegs.

Double silver gates that beckoned us to the pool that summer are closed for the winter. The pool that shimmered promises is empty; the sky-blue painted concrete confesses the secret of the brochure-blue water of my memory. A pressed metal timetable detailing opening and closing times offers no disclosure of the teenage planning that took place according to those firm times. Boarded-up ablutions guard the romantic conspiracies that were whispered behind their walls. Giggles echo in my mind. I drive away.


It’s difficult to calculate the effect of place on event, to equate the importance of the event to the place. The properties that one imagines place would bestow upon the first kiss are, upon close investigation, elusive as vapour. A kiss doesn’t make the shadow of the looming steel factory any less ugly; but a kiss that tasted of oranges is a lingering memory that owes its beauty entirely to the act of itself.

He kissed me over the handlebars of his bike. He closed his eyes and made it special. His mouth tasted of oranges

(First published in In Our Own Words: A Generation Defining Itself – Volume 8)

Penguin Prize for African Writing

Penguin Books South Africa is delighted to announce the shortlists for the inaugural Penguin Prize for African Writing. Having received approximately 250 submissions in the fiction category and 50 in the non-fiction category from countries all over Africa, Penguin Books South Africa is pleased to announce the names of the shortlisted authors for the inaugural Penguin Prize for African Writing. This award seeks to highlight the diverse writing talent on the African continent and make new African fiction and non-fiction available to a wider readership. The shortlisted authors for the Penguin Prize for African Writing are:

Fiction Ellen Aaku (Zambia) Moraa Gitaa (Kenya) Chika Ezeanya (Nigeria) Shubnum Khan (South Africa) Isabella Morris (South Africa) Mũkoma wa Ngũgĩ (Kenya) Non-fiction Pius Adesanmi (Nigeria) Andrew Barlow (South Africa) Ruth Carneson (South Africa) Ahmed Mortiar (South Africa) Tanure Ojaide (Nigeria) Anli Serfontein (South Africa) Tebogo Tlharipe (South Africa) These manuscripts have been sent to the judges and the winners will be announced on Saturday 4 September 2010 at the Mail and Guardian Literary Festival. The prize in each category will be R50 000 and a publishing contract with Penguin Books South Africa, with worldwide distribution via Penguin Group companies. About the judges Fiction Kole Omotoso Kole Omotoso was born in Nigeria in 1943. After studying in Nigeria, he obtained a doctorate on contemporary Arabic prose and dramatic writing at the University of Edinburgh. From 2001, he has been a professor in the Drama Department at Stellenbosch University, and is currently the director of the Africa Diaspora Research Group based in Johannesburg. In 2009, he was a judge for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Africa Region and was the keynote speaker on the festival’s opening night. He is the author of the classic historical narrative The Combat, first published in 1972 and republished in the Penguin Modern Classics series, as well as one short story collection, two plays, three books of literary criticism and several academic articles, novels and historical narratives. Harry Garuba Harry Garuba is the head of department and associate professor in the Centre for African Studies at the University of Cape Town. His teaching interests include: African Literature, Postcolonial Theory and Criticism, African Modernities, and Intellectuals/Intellectual Traditions of African Nationalist Writing. In addition to being an academic, he is an author and poet, and with an active interest in African and postcolonial literatures, has been a member of the editorial advisory board of the Heinemann African Writers Series. Elinor Sisulu Elinor Sisulu was born in Zimbabwe. She studied in her home country as well as in Senegal and the Netherlands. As an academic researcher for the Ministry of Labour in Zimbabwe in the early eighties, she published studies of women’s work and development assistance in Zimbabwe. This included a major study for NORAD that was later published by SAPES in a book entitled Women in Zimbabwe. From 1987 to 1990 she worked for the International Labour Organisation on assistance programmes for the ANC, PAC and SWAPO. In 1991, Elinor moved to Johannesburg and until 1998, worked as a freelance writer and editor, and as assistant Editor for SPEAK, a black feminist publication. Her children’s book, The Day Gogo Went to Vote, a story about a child accompanying her grandmother to vote in the 1994 elections, won numerous awards, including the African Studies Association of America Best Children’s Book Award, and has been translated into 6 major South African languages. Her biography of Walter and Albertina Sisulu, Walter and Albertina Sisulu: In Our Lifetime, was published in 2002 and was runner up in the Sunday Times Alan Paton Award, and was awarded the NOMA Award for most outstanding book published in Africa in 2003. Elinor Sisulu is currently advising on projects on democracy and human rights in Zimbabwe. Non-fiction Redi Direko Redi Direko was born in Soweto, Johannesburg. She studied for her first degree in Journalism and Communications, and English Literature at post-graduate level in Johannesburg. She has been a broadcast journalist for 11 years, having worked in both television and radio. She began her career as a reporter for Network Radio News and then Kaya FM, a Gauteng radio station. She went on to present a variety of programmes for the SABC and its Africa channel, where she interviewed people such as Thabo Mbeki, Tony Blair, Colin Powell, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. She was the senior news anchor at eTV’s 24th satellite news channel, and has been a columnist for Fairlady magazine. She is currently the presenter of the Redi Direko Show on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk and writes a weekly socio-political column for the Sowetan newspaper, while studying for her Master’s in Literature. Nic Dawes Nic Dawes has worked for the Mail & Guardian from 2004. Dawes joined the newspaper as associate editor from ThisDay newspaper. As an investigative and political reporter with editing duties, he was part of the team that broke the story linking police chief Jackie Selebi to the underworld networks surrounding Brett Kebble, and also contributed extensive news and analysis on politics and economic policy. He is now the editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian weekly, and Mail & Guardian Online. Jonathan Jansen Jonathan Jansen is honorary professor of education at the University of the Witwatersrand and Scholar-in-Residence at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Johannesburg. He has worked as a high school science teacher and served as the dean of education at the University of Pretoria from 2001-2007. He obtained his MS in science education at Cornell University and his PhD from Stanford University as a Fulbright Scholar, and is widely regarded as one of the top researchers in the field of education.

The Bed Book of Short Stories

A collection of short stories by new and established Southern African women writers on the theme of Bed to be published this year.


1. Pamela Newham, “A natural combination”
2. Joanne Fedler, “Bedrock”
3. Lauri Kubuitsile, “In the Spirit of McPhineas Lata” (BOTSWANA)
4. Melissa Gardner – “In sickness”
5. Rumbi Katedza, “The Corpse” (ZIMBABWE)
6. Anne Woodborne, “The quilt of wife-beating crimes”
7. Sarah Lotz, “Heaven or something like it”
8. Jayne Bauling. “Stains like a map”
9. Gothataone Moeng, “Lie Still Heart” (BOTSWANA)
10. Joanne Hichens – title still to be decided
11. Jeanne Hromnik – title still to be decided
12. Arja Salafranca, “Desire without borders”
13. Sylvia Schlettwein, “To own a bed” (NAMIBIA)
14. Liesl Jobson, “On a broomstick”
15. Karabo Moleke, “Nompumelelo’s Sinxoto’s Bed”
16. Margot Saffer, “Imagining Monsters”
17. Megan Ross, “Finding a mother”
18. Ellen Banda-Aaku, “Made of Mukwa” (ZAMBIA)
19. Isabella Morris, “The Outsider”
20. Novuyo Tshuma, “Ikej” (ZIMBABWE)
21. Romaine Hill, “Every Picture Tells”
22. Marina Chichava, “Sleeping Through Heartbreak” (MOZAMBIQUE)
23. Erika Coetzee, “How to Improvise”
24. Bronwyn McLennan, “Portrait of a woman in bed”
25. Claudie Muchindu, “Wings on Indi’s Pillow” (ZAMBIA)
26. Nia Magoulianiti McGregor, “Hunters and lovers”
27. Tinashe Chidyausika, “Fools Gold” (ZIMBABWE)
28. Rose Richards, “Mary Mary”
29. Luso Katali Mnthali, “A requiem for Daniel” (MALAWI)
30. Helen Walne, “Crazy”
31. Rosemund Handler, “Lena My Lovely”

Published by Modjaji Books.
Compiled by Lauri Kubuitsile; edited by Joanne Hichens.

Lit Mag Responsibilities

Having work accepted in a literary magazine is a big deal for a writer, it means that something you’ve been working on has found a home and won’t be relegated to the homeless drawer. It is frustrating then that once work has been accepted, some literary magazines don’t ever make contact again.

I submitted a poem to Botsotso and it was accepted and the editor asked for more. I sent more. I waited a year – no publication and no contact. I accept that funding is a problem, but then the editor needs to be upfront about this situation and say, “Your poems might only be published in a year’s time.” This knowledge will give me the option to decide whether or not the poem has the lifespan to wait or whether I want to submit to another magazine.

I was informed that SA Dept of Arts & Culture were sponsoring a new SA literary journal to be edited by Prof. Oliphant of UNISA. I submitted a poem and a literary essay and both were accepted, March being given as the publishing date. I emailed the editor to provide details of publication and where the publication could be purchased, but to date I have had no response.

I provided another new publication with a literary essay and it was accepted. Then I was told that it wouldn’t appear in the print issue but rather as a parallel article online. I accepted the change in publication and agreed to write some reviews for the same publication. To date the literary essay has not been published online, despite the editor’s reassurance that it is on the website!

I think it’s time that South African writers stood their ground and were more demanding of these editors, if they hold themselves out to be a market for writers then they must deliver. If they insist that they are looking for new writers and new writing then they must woo the new writers instead of publishing names that they feel will lend their publication stability.  Without new writers the literary magazines will not last.

New writing is about taking risks and new publications should take this into account. South African writing is characterised by writers who have never been afraid to give voice to the unpopular. By serving up safe writing by middle of the road writers local editors are failing to contribute to the tradition of excellent SA writing.